Category Archives: Faith and Trust

Hitting the Wall

Recently I had a crisis that almost brought me to my knees, all because I’m a single woman trying to deal with a major lawn project that was totally beyond me.

I bought a Fiskars reel mower this year – you know the kind we used in the 50’s that you just push around your yard – no motor? My idyllic vision of being a suburban farm girl took a serious blow when I realized I would have to mow in four (yeah, 4!) sections, spread out over the week, each week. This seriously crippled my time and energy to work on my first love, gardening.

As I struggled with these conflicting demands, I realized I was fighting a losing battle and something would have to give. Soon, however, a vision popped into my mind: (1) gravel in the front side yard by my drive which would provide extra parking and eventual access to utility yard behind my fence and (2) weed cloth all around the garden in back, both eliminating a lot of grass. Besides, this would reduce my weekly mowing by half – two sessions – and return me to my old Hippie dream of hanging out with herbs, butterflies, and huge squash plants.

Fast forward to the next Saturday. My darling granddaughter came over and we laboriously laid down commercial grade week cloth in the side yard and tacked it down with 100 6″ staples – a true labor of love on her part. I scheduled delivery of 3/4″ round gravel for the afternoon after the August 21 eclipse, and it showed up as promised. The very nice driver tried to honor my request to back his dump truck up to the top of the 45′ stretch of lawn so he could drop his load all along the future drive so we could have a polite volunteer party to rake it into place.

Well, the first thing that happened was one wheel started spinning and sinking about 8-10″ into the ground. I yelled, “STOP,” which he did and returned to the street but not before much of the weed cloth was pulled loose by about 2′ and dislodged many of those 100 clips!

I honestly didn’t know whether to cry or vomit . . . . I think only those women who are alone can understand how vulnerable and overwhelmed I felt. But the driver was nice and helped me re-position the weed cloth, then dumped the gravel in the middle. But now how to spread it out? Yet another crisis. Plus all those loose pins needed fixing.

The next day – Tuesday – I hit the wall. I basically had a spiritual temper tantrum. I told the Lord I was done. I could no longer stand living so close to the edge, that I needed more support, more help, and more blessings. And I needed them NOW.

Ironically, later that day I had to start a cleanse to prepare for a dreaded colonoscopy the next day. So as I purged physically, I continued to purge emotionally and spiritually. I recalled my friend Lindsey advising me once in a crisis that the first thing I needed to do was “thank the Lord for this adversity.”

Are you kidding me? Why would I do that? I could hear her voice saying, “Because that shows our faith that God will always bring about greater good than the size of the adversity.”

This thought was met with extremely wavering faith, but I believe in principle over emotion. So with rather poor grace, told the Lord I at least accepted the situation and would He please, please, please help me solve it? As I progressed forward on Wednesday, my procedure went very smoothly. I got a clean bill of health and was soon eating and feeling good.

My faith and optimism also miraculously returned: Of course great things were coming in my future. Plus insight and solutions kept coming to mind. Here’s what happened:

  • It turned out that the gravel delivery driver also had a small tractor, and he agreed to come the following week and spread  the rock for a very small fee.
  • With sudden inspiration, I asked a large family to send over a couple of teenagers, who wanted some extra money, to help put down weed cloth in the back and weed – they had four!
  • Since they came before Tractor Guy, the five of us quickly finished tacking down weed cloth more securely in front, so we were ready to spread that gravel.
  • Then all four put down 170 feet of weed cloth around the outside perimeter of my back yard, clips and all, both jobs in only 3 hours – oh glorious day!
  • The two older boys refused pay since they had jobs. The two younger girls gladly accepted it with the promise of more work to come.
  • To top this off, the oldest boy volunteered his Sunday School class to come back and spread the gravel by hand, banishing my lingering worries that a tractor would disturb my already traumatized weed cloth in front.
  • Last Wednesday, a crew of six strong guys appeared with rakes, shovels and a wheelbarrow. Within 45 minutes, gravel was nice and smooth, all as Christian service. My contribution: bottled water and cookies from the local grocery.
  • Finally, yesterday, my two young women helpers were back pulling weeds from two neglected beds. Now I can cull strawberry runners and plant them in the newly cleared old bed. I can hand water my herb garden to hit neglected spots, and I’m already planning next year’s beds with great anticipation.

Here’s how it looks:

Side Yard Before
Author’s Photo

Side Yard After
Author’s Photo

Garden Path Conquered!
Author’s Photo

Along with better balance, joy is back in full force. Not only did the Lord help me solve my problem but He used this experience to expand my faith and my spiritual tool kit for battling the darkness of our mortal limitations.

So when you find yourself stuck inside your soul, squeezed tight like a snake needing to shed its skin, remember to thank the Lord for it but also ASK for solutions, comfort, insight, and confirmation of your own plans. They will come.

 

 

Like a River

This morning’s Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast was an Independence Day Special with crashing patriotic numbers – of the goose bump variety. But then Stephen Paulus’ Hymn for America came on with a quietly reverent, but powerful beginning:

We have loved you for your rivers,
We have loved you for your shores . . .

I immediately burst into tears as my feelings for our native land spilled over. I have always related deeply to nature around me, especially the huge City Park across the street from my house growing up in Iowa City. It had towering trees, scampering squirrels, even peacocks’ screams that punctuated our nights – all of which was surrounded by the wide, silent Iowa River that enfolded the lower part of the park with a tender embrace.

I crossed that river daily on my way to and from school. Its varying moods and silent power provided a stable setting for a childhood privileged in many, many ways. Here’s a wonderful photo. The green bridge in the middle is the Foot Bridge linking the Student Union and main campus with the west side of town, Art Building and Hancher Auditorium. I stood there and watched otters darting in and out of moonbeams after a night of study at the University library, and as a high school senior floated daringly past my PE class, practicing golf swings by hitting heads off dandelions!

Iowa River
Courtesy breac.nd.edu

And just as nature, embodied by the Iowa River, underpins all our physical existence, this nation with its gloriously inspired constitutional government and long heritage of freedom underpins our current quality of life. We are privileged to live in the most prosperous, most democratic country in the history of the world. And even though that heritage and those freedoms are under extreme attack, we have God’s solemn promise that those who live His commandments will be protected and ultimately return to Him. This country is a Land of Promise for those who live the laws of life.

But for now, I want to celebrate the greatness that God’s creation and our free country has spawned. All I have to do is watch PBS to see the many and often unsung heroes featured there, and whose creativity and ingenuity have created our wonderful way of life and capped Western Civilization with sparkling achievement. Here are just a few:

  • Mark Twain and his biting wit
  • All the Broadway musicals, like Oklahoma,  that capture and even helped create our country’s personality and identity
  • Cutting edge novels – where would we be without Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Poe?
  • Riveting film like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Psycho. And anything with Jimmy Stewart – the original American “boy next door.”
  • TV that set the bar high: I grew up with Gunsmoke and The Honeymooners. My kids grew up with the Donny and Marie Show , The Love Boat, and Hill Street Blues.
  • Finally, a land dotted with churches and amazing spiritual leaders, like Norman Vincent Peale, Peter Marshall, and Joseph Smith.

Christian prophets have long foretold of a thousand years of peace and plenty, after the return of Jesus in glory. I believe, like Anne Frank, that most people are basically good and that life, like a river, is taking us to that distant shore of peace, fulfillment, and glory. We just need to stay in the boat, on the wide river of life.

 

28 Months

Today marks 28 months since I first conceived the idea of doing a deeper organization of my home and possessions. I started with possibly the most un-fun job – dejunking my files! Who likes paperwork, now I ask you? But I decided that it was time to marry an old system of putting documents in 3-ring binders by topic with the file folders in drawers, which were quicker but less usable. I started in December 2014 and it took me into January, about five weeks of chaining myself to my desk singing along to Broadway musicals, like Oklahoma and Showboat.

Then I tackled my cramped kitchen, finding yet more alternate pantry space, then my linen closet turned household supply cupboard. After an inspirational spiritual preparedness fair in March 2015 and praying earnestly for goal-setting guidance, I had a vision of a large storage unit stocked with bins and books for the future. Three months later, reality matched the vision. Then in quick succession I worked with rural buyers, researched a home to rent for myself in the rural areas west of me, found a home to buy instead, listed my current rental for my landlord, moved, put in a large garden, found renters for my bonus room, settled in, redid my legal paperwork and battled a second bout of Epstein Barr virus (chronic fatigue) all winter. By New Year’s, I felt like I was in “House Jail” and I wanted out!

Elderberry syrup quickly banished the virus, spring banished the blues, and as I emerged from those 27 months, I found I needed to banish lingering personal doubts and fears about my future – I still wasn’t done. Did I deserve prosperity and higher levels of success and creativity? So I’ve spent an additional month working through this last obstacle – the 28th month! I listened to countless Tabernacle Choir broadcasts, Vocal Pointe’s Christmas concert, and meditated on God’s many invitations throughout the scriptures to trust Him and to trust in His promises to bless our efforts, however imperfect. And I’m making headway – I truly feel “a perfect brightness of hope” as many of my insecurities are healed. (1 Nephi 31:20, Book of Mormon)

I may be just like the plant below, emerging out into the sunshine through hardened layers of habit, doubt and fear.

Breaking Through Obstacles
Courtesy Pixabay.com Image 1147803

Why was I doing this? To create an expanded future, with more time for family and friends, for inspirational writing, for community and church service, and I now have time and energy for them. I feel like a kid on the last day of school facing a long, wonderful summer – whoopie!

This 28-month trek was like the last room in the fairy tale, Rumpelstitskin, where the miller boasted to the king that his daughter could spin straw into gold, but she was in trouble when the king put her to the test! She was promised she could marry him if she would actually spin a room of straw into gold. You all know what happened:  a funny little man showed up and magically did the work for her in exchange for her ring. The king, seeing a bonanza, delayed fulfilling his promise and gave her a bigger room of straw. Her mysterious friend rescued her once again in exchange for her necklace. A final challenge, however, found her with the biggest room of straw yet and nothing with which to pay this funny little man. He suggested she give him her first born child and, thinking she would never have to actually do it, she agreed. The straw was turned to gold, the king finally kept his promise and, in due time, the miller’s daughter had a beautiful child. When the funny little man showed up demanding payment, she was stuck unless she could guess his name. Numerous failures ensued, but finally one of her huntsmen overheard a funny little man dancing around a fire chanting a rhyme that contained his name. Appearing one last time before the young queen, he was flabbergasted when she pronounced his name, Rumpelstitskin, and he dissolved, screaming, into ash.

I believe this, like all fairy tales, is an allegory about life. When we face “impossible” tasks, something or someone magical shows up to help us but it costs us something (faith, courage, work, time, etc.). When our usual talents and resources aren’t enough, the largest challenges require extra brilliance, inspiration, and help from the unseen spiritual forces around all of us.

Willow Cathedral
Courtesy Pixabay.com Image 90987

But the good news is that, because there is goodness in the universe that ultimately rewards effort and sacrifice, we get to “marry the king” and break through into a newness of life. As I emerge from my latest cocoon of struggle (larger than all past ones), new horizons beckon me like the tunnel above. They’re green, inviting, and exciting – far from the drudgery of the past. And I have hope this truly was the last room before greater support systems show up and allow me a more “normal” pace of life and expanded effectiveness. Stay tuned for updates….

In one of those serendipitous happenings, I just finished reading a Maisie Dobbs mystery where our likable British “Investigator and Psychologist” comes to a major crossroads in Leaving Everything Most Loved, to travel into adventure. Her fears were soothed by a wise Indian woman who reassured her with these words:

I’ll tell you this. Leaving that which you love breaks your heart open. But you will find a jewel inside, and this precious jewel is the opening of your heart to all that is new and all that is different, and it will be the making of you – if you allow it to be.

These words reflected my experience leaving my marriage, leaving New Hampshire where I spent the happiest six years of my life, leaving Eagle last year and many well-loved friends. But each move has brought new adventures and new friends, making their own memories. The rewards have been worth the pain of change.

Just “Bozos on the Bus”

Lately, I let anxiety about the future creep into my thoughts – in spite of much preparation and reassurance from God that I’ll be cared for. Additionally, I was worried for my family.  It was a lot like the old saying, “The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.”  In this case, I consciously thought I was exercising faith and feeling serenity but actually I wasn’t watching worries build up in my subconscious until they spilled over to overwhelm that faith and my daily effectiveness.

After days of trying to exert my own mental powers and failing to change course, I decided – duh! – to ask for a priesthood blessing from my home teachers.  They patiently listened to my concerns, then proceeded to lay their hands on my head and give me inspired counsel:  I would be cared for, be physically and spiritually safe, and my family’s spiritual path was safely in His hands – I could let go and trust Him.  It felt like unseen fingers reached into my brain and rearranged my thoughts, like the direction to “correct the seasoning” at the end of many recipes.  It was gentle, deep, and very reassuring.

The next day I remembered a saying:

 “We are all bozos on the bus, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.

I looked it up and found that Wavy Gravy said it at Woodstock in 1969, then Elizabeth Lesser commented on it in her book Broken Open which is where I originally read it.  That made me think of The Muppet Movie which is on my list of favorites – goofy guys bumping along the road of life. I needed to be more like them, more childlike:

 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 18:2-3)

To drive the point home, Heavenly Father sent the following experience.  Monday night was a lovely balmy evening and I was sitting in my living room with the windows open, reading.  I suddenly became aware of the echoing of bird song through the trees, the scent of my newly picked lilacs, and an intense recollection of being a child exploring my grandparents’ yard and the ravine beyond it.  I loved exploring the lush greenery.  There were lilies of the valley in the shade along the garage wall and masses of phlox along the edge of the yard.  The ravine hid many other treasures:  lacy ferns, dainty white anemone, and the mysterious Jack-in-the-Pulpit shyly hiding in the shade. Owls and toads lived there.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit Courtesy Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Jack-in-the-Pulpit
Courtesy Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

This was more than a memory, I actually re-experienced being a carefree child.  What a wonderful way to bring home the advice given in my blessing.  It lasted about an hour and sealed this lesson in my soul.

Now when I go out for walks, I notice the plants and birds more, and my own thoughts less.  I don’t know one iota more about the future than I did, but since I’ve done all I can to prepare, I don’t need to know. I’m too busy enjoying the present.